A Week with Blue Apron

Last week I tried out CookSmarts meal planning. This week I’m going more full service with Blue Apron, a meal-in-a-box service that provides ready-to-cook recipes and ingredients. We go the 2-meals-4-servings option, which retails for $69.92. We used a coupon for a free trial week.

Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign there are literally hundreds of Blue Apron “unboxing” posts and videos, so we can skip past most of that (google it if you’re interested). One thing that did drive me nuts was pulling out items that I already have in my kitchen. Garlic, baby spinach, oranges, honey, red wine vinegar… all those things are already in my fridge/pantry threatening to rot.  The real kicker was the recipe that came with a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, since I have a TON of those leftover from last week’s meals.

On the flip side I was excited to try out the samosa recipe, because searching the entire city for samosa wrappers would have taken me the better part of a day and probably still failed. Last time I tried to find an Indian grocery store I ended up at a bodega that sold mostly cigarettes (thanks, Google).

Meal 1: English Pea and Potato Samosas

I made this recipe on Monday, and things got off to a rocky start.

"Shell the peas," they said. "It'll be fun," they said.
“Shell the peas,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Look, I’m not saying that freshly shelled peas aren’t better than frozen peas, I’m sure they are. So I bristled at the instruction, cursed when peas escaped and went flying across the room, but ultimately ended up with a thing of nice plump peas. I made the chutney, cooked the spinach, prepared the samosa filling, and by this point over an hour had passed. I’d told my 3 year old she could help with the samosas, and she kept very impatiently asking “why is it taking so long?” I also managed to dirty approximately every single bowl and utensil in the kitchen during the prep process.

Every step seemed to take longer than the last, and when the samosas / cauliflower were finally in the oven I thought “why did I make the chutney first? I could have just made it while everything baked.” But then I looked at the giant pile of dishes in the sink and spent the 15 minutes cleaning up instead.

An hour and forty-five minutes after I started we were finally ready to sit down and eat.

Cauliflower, samosas, and chutney
Cauliflower, samosas, and chutney

The samosas look pretty good, but were pretty bland. I should have added more salt/pepper.  The chutney was great, the cauliflower was OK. What really bugs me though is how little protein is in this meal. You get a little from the peas, and some more in the cauliflower, but not much. The serving sizes are small and about half and hour after dinner I was raiding the fridge because I was still hungry.

After dinner I was exhausted from nearly two hours of cooking and cleaning. I collapsed into a heap with the baby (who of course was hungry by this point) while Chris did the rest of the dishes.

Meal 2: Oven-Roasted Chicken and Mixed Mushrooms

Thankfully this meal went a lot more smoothly than the first. From start to finish it took one hour and 10 minutes, which includes 10 minutes of downtime while things roasted (used to clean the prep dishes and utensils).

The chicken came out crispy and the orange “salad” paired well with it. The collards were OK.  Our local grocery store doesn’t have much in the way of “fancy” mushrooms so it was nice to try some varieties besides white button.  I’m not sure it’s a recipe I’d make again though. Once again I left the table feeling a little hungry. Mostly I was relieved that cooking Tuesday’s dinner wasn’t another 2 hour marathon.


The rest of the week will be filled with leftovers and an ad-hoc meal made by throwing all of last week’s leftover ingredients on some chicken.

For the Blue Apron part of this week we’re at 2 hours 50 minutes and $70 for 2 meals, versus last week’s 5 hours and $60 for 3 meals. I knew Blue Apron would come out more expensive, since most of what they’re selling is convenience, but I didn’t expect the two to come so close in time-per-meal. I also felt like the CookSmarts recipes were much better.

Originally I’d planned to try a bunch of different meal-kit services, but this week was irritating enough that I might just skip the others. I know many people love Blue Apron, friends of mine swear by it, and maybe this was just an off week for them. But based on this week I just don’t think Blue Apron is a good fit for us. I am willing to exchange the convenience of delivered food for more flexibility in my meals. One of the biggest headaches of Blue Apron is the week lead time needed to change or cancel your meals. I don’t always know what I’m doing a week in advance. Mostly though I was just really frustrated with the time-to-deliciousness ratio. It wasn’t any cheaper than ordering takeout, but it was considerably more labor intensive. Not only that but I left both meals feeling hungry.



A Week of Meals with CookSmarts

I have been cooking the same 5 or so recipes for literally years now. As a result I am very tired of them. And as a mother to a new baby, I am very tired in general. As such, we’ve been eating a lot of takeout. It’s incredibly delicious, but also starting to seriously get in the way of my efforts to get back into shape. So I’m rededicating myself to cooking on the regular.

This week I tried out CookSmarts, a weekly meal planning service which provides you with up to 4 recipes per week and automatically generates a shopping list based on the number of people you’re cooking for. The service is $8/month, but they offer a free trial (no credit card required, thankfully).

The free trial gives you unlimited-time access to 3 different weekly menus.

A Week of Meals

Each week you mark which recipes you’d like to cook. Any dependencies (sauces or sides from one recipe that are reused in another) are noted. I only have time to cook 3 nights a week, so I chose the Maple Dijon Crusted SalmonAdobo Honey Chicken Kebabs, and Turkey Meatball Lettuce Cups this week.

Each recipe gives you dietary options such as gluten free, paleo, and vegan. Although we eat most anything, I often need to cook gluten-free for friends or family so I chose the gluten-free options.

The grocery store run

The grocery list provided by CookSmarts is well organized. Thankfully I had a lot of the stuff needed on hand, apparently I am the type of person who has 5 different varieties of vinegar lying around. I had to go to two different grocery stores for the rest of it. Perhaps “had to” is an exaggeration. A lot of the less common ingredients like almond meal are way more expensive at my local grocery store. Going to Trader Joe’s on a Monday afternoon was a somewhat harrowing experience, but I survived. There was a whole incident wherein I thought I needed ghee, but Trader Joe’s was out, but then I realized I didn’t really need it (that was for the Paleo version of the recipe), and then I was lazy-shamed by my friends for not making my own ghee. In the end my mom got me some ghee from a different Trader Joe’s. Cool story, I know.

My grocery bill for these 3 meals was $57.25, excluding the stuff I already had, and it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to gather everything. The most expensive item on the list was the salmon, and my costs were a little lower than they might have been because I had a bunch of ground turkey in the freezer already.

Meal 1: Honey Dijon Crusted Salmon

I made this meal first because fish smells kinda weird to me even when it’s fresh, and I didn’t want it hanging around my fridge any longer than necessary. The recipe includes videos with tips on preparing food, and I learned that you are supposed to wash and dry fish before cooking. Now I know. Sorry, anyone who’s ever had salmon at my house in the past.

The salmon was pretty easy, and gets slathered with a tasty mixture of honey, dijon mustard, and almond meal (or breadcrumbs if you’re glutenous, which is different than gluttonous). It was paired with a baby spinach / apple / mandarin / pecan salad. Please note that it is not possible to buy mandarin oranges in quantities of less than 1,000, and everyone in my house will be enjoying tiny oranges for the rest of the month.

Also my husband is not that into salad (though he will eat it if I serve it because he’s not an asshole). So I packed up half the salad into a jar (yeah, Pinterest!) for lunch. What I did not realize at the time was that salad was about to become a major theme in my life.

Maple dijon salmon and spinach / apple / mandarin salad
Maple dijon salmon and spinach / apple / mandarin salad. Next time I’ll use a real camera, I promise.

The whole meal was delicious. A+ would eat again. It took me about 45 minutes to prep and cook, start to finish.

Meal #2: Turkey Meatballs

Turkey meatballs with quinoa and salad
Turkey meatballs with quinoa and salad

This meal I made for six people, and took over to my sister-in-law’s so I could earn brownie points while drinking her wine. I cooked the quinoa in the rice cooker, made the meatballs in the morning, and then made the salad while the meatballs were cooking. I greatly overestimated how much salad would be consumed, and thus will be eating leftover salad for the rest of the week.

The big time suck with this recipe was the adobo sauce (seen in the little dish on the left). It’s used for both this recipe and the chicken kebabs, and they suggest you make it the weekend before. Since I didn’t go grocery shopping until Monday I got to make it Tuesday afternoon. It’s one of those irritating things where you only need a few teaspoons of adobo, but you can only buy it in a 8 oz can with some chipotle peppers. So after making the sauce I had spend time packaging the leftover peppers into ice cube trays for freezing / later use. Which is to say I’ll probably throw them out in 6 months when I’ve completely forgotten about them.

All the recipes have you make salad dressing from scratch, which is great and easy, but I’ll probably skip it next time. I have approximately 20 bottles of store bought salad dressing already. They go well with my 5 kinds of vinegar.

The sauce and the meatballs were delicious, my 3 year old even ate the salad (or at least she was willing to pick out and eat the apples / celery), and I got some great sister-in-law points from it. I spent a total of 1 and a half hours cooking on Tuesday, not counting the time it took to pack everything up to travel.


Meal #3: Chicken Kebabs

I swear next time I cook something Ill get out an actual camera.
I swear next time I cook something I’ll get out an actual camera.

This meal was really easy and straightforward, mostly because I’d already made the quinoa and adobo sauce on Tuesday. It took 10 minutes in the morning to start the marinade. Grilling the chicken was quick, once Chris spent 2 hours cleaning the grill from its winter sadness. Rather than make a new salad I just ate some of the salad leftover from Meal 2.

Total time, including the morning marinating, was 30 minutes.

Sixty bucks and 5 hours is not terrible for 3 meals / 14 servings. I’m sure over time I’ll get a lot faster at grocery shopping (Chris usually does it), and not all weeks will require a trip to the minor circle of hell that is Trader Joe’s in the suburbs. It’s still a pretty significant time commitment. Out of curiosity I priced out what the same or similar ingredients would have cost on AmazonFresh. It came to $69.43, or $12.18 more (not including the $300 annual Amazon Prime Fresh membership). FreshDirect would have been around $78.

One of the advertised benefits of box-of-food services like Blue Apron or Plated is that there’s no unused food to go bad, and I can see the appeal. Dry goods like almond meal or shelf stable ingredients like maple syrup are no big deal leftover. But I’ve got a bunch of green onions, half a head of lettuce, half-bags of both baby spinach and spring mix, a giant pile of mandarin oranges, and some celery all waiting to rot if I don’t think of something to do with them soon.

Overall though I’m really happy with the meal plan, and signed up for the paid version (which unlocks the entire archives as well as new plans each week). Next week I’m giving Blue Apron a try, and I’m interested to see how it stacks up in terms of time, cost, and taste.


Better Instant Oatmeal

I tried overnight oats. Honestly I think they’re kinda gross. I don’t want cold gloppy oatmeal in the morning and I definitely don’t want 16oz of it.

So instead I put together some “instant oatmeal” jars. All I have to do in the morning is add hot water. They’re cheap, brain dead, and very portable.

Three breakfasts ready to go.

Each jar contains:

  • 1/2 cup dry quick oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (for antioxidants!)
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal (for omega 3s!)
  • 2 tsp fiber powder (for pooping!)

Then for flavor I add one of the following:

  • a tablespoon of craisins or other dried fruit
  • a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • cinnamon

I measure everything out into 8oz mason jars and leave them on top of the microwave. In the morning I use the hot water kettle to fill them to just below the lip of the glass. You could also put cold water in and nuke them in the microwave. Make sure you give it a good stir, and let it sit for a few minutes. Everything will swell into a delicious gooey oatmeal.

Dry oatmeal ready for hot water
Dry oatmeal ready for hot water

Pro tip: turn the oatmeal upside down and shake it (with the lid on) before adding water. This helps some of the smaller bits get mixed and rise to the top. Otherwise you can end up with a gelatinous clump of chia seeds which is not very appetizing.

Cooking, Recipes

Goat Cheese and Spinach Quinoa in the rice cooker

We’re in that awkward stretch of time before vacation where you still need to eat but don’t want to buy any more groceries. I didn’t want to order in since we’ll be eating out so much on vacation, so I improvised from what was lying around the fridge. It came out pretty good!

I've heard that food photos look best in natural light. I'll let you know when I start cooking dinner during the day.
I’ve heard that food photos look best in natural light. I’ll let you know when I start cooking dinner during the day.


1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
4oz goat cheese
3 cups fresh spinach
2 tbsp chia seeds


Add quinoa, water, sage, basil, and salt to rice cooker and start. After about 10 minutes when it’s steaming thoroughly, or when the countdown timer says 10 minutes if you’ve got a digital rice cooker, add the goat cheese, spinach, and chia seeds. Let steam in the rice cooker another 10 minutes. Stir and serve.

For the record, my husband thought it was “bland” so you might want to add more seasonings. If anyone tries it let me know!

Cooking, Recipes

Recipe Roundup

I’ve been cooking regularly for 9 months now! I’ve gotten considerably better at it, and my Evernote notebook has gotten fatter with go-to recipes. Here are links to some of my favorites.

Goat cheese and kale frittata cups
The texture is best the day they’re made, but they make a perfectly acceptable zap-it-and-run breakfast option. A good use of greens on their way out too. Gluten free.

Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
This crock pot recipe takes a fair amount of prep time in the morning, but once you get home it’s brain dead. I’ll swap in whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand, and usually keep cans of chickpeas and coconut milk on hand so Ic an make it with minimal planning. It’s a great way to eat your vegetables, and is both vegan and gluten free.

Turkey with Feta and Veggies
This is sort of like an adult mac and cheese. It is another one of my default “use up random veggies” recipes. The two central ingredients, turkey and feta, both are easy to keep around. Turkey can be frozen and a sealed package of feta will be happy in your fridge for a few months. Gluten free.

Steamed Veggies with Quinoa and Ginger Sauce
The sauce takes a little bit to make, but lasts a week or two in the fridge and makes for a good take-to-work lunch. Vegan and gluten free.

Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Tacos
You can sub in pretty much any greens if you don’t have carrot tops. Vegan and gluten free if you use gf corn tortillas.

Falafel and Cucumber Sauce
Falafel is kind of tedious to make but freezes well for another good lunch option. I pan fry or bake them instead of deep frying them. Gluten free if you use gf bread crumbs (I personally skip the pita anyway).

Grilled Fish Tacos with Chipotle-Lime Dressing
These are good if, and only if, you’ve got some good fresh tilapia. I tried it with frozen tilapia and they were kind of gross.

Fennel Smoked Salmon
A healthier alternative to my usual “drown it in butter” style of cooking salmon. Requires a grill and a smoker boxGluten free.

20 Minute Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Super quick dish. I was nervous because the fish sauce kind of smells like feet when you’re cooking, but the resulting dish is quite tasty. Gluten free. Honorable mention: Moo Shu Beef Lettuce Cups.

Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole
I am really excited it’s now getting cool enough to think about baking again. This stuff is delicious.

Kale and Quinoa Minestrone
Another vegan and gluten free option. I confess this is not quite something I’m craving, but it has a really good healthy-to-delicious ratio. Take the leftovers for lunch and impress your coworkers with how healthy you are.

What’s still surprising to me is how much planning I have to do in order to make it a week without going out for burgers. I’ve learned that if it’s 5pm and I’m exhausted I might still be willing to cook, but I’m definitely not willing to go to plan a meal, much less go to the grocery store for ingredients. And for this I have one final recipe, the pièce de résistance: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili. I keep the ingredients for this recipe on hand at all times for days when the fridge is empty (or worse, full of stuff that needs tossing). The turkey can be frozen, everything else is canned, and I can pick up an onion at the corner store (or skip it). In the morning, prep takes all of 10 minutes and in the evening I have delicious chili waiting.

If you’ve got some favorite default-everyday recipes, share them in the comments!


World’s Worst Kale Chips

2014-06-18 12.49.53

I made kale chips for the first time this week. It seemed simple enough: tear leaves into bite-sized bits, coat in olive oil and salt, bake on a cookie sheet. And for the most part it went as planned.

I made two mistakes though: first, I allowed some of the leaves to overlap. This resulted in them just coming out oily and gross anywhere there was overlap. But more importantly: I did not measure my salt. I “eyeballed” it. And I ended up with something that is better suited as slug killer than a food.

I tried eating them but they were just too salty. After a few days I gave up and threw them out, not having any slugs in need of killing.

The rest of this week’s CSA usage was pretty uninspired: more steamed veggies with ginger sauce and saag. Both are easy ways to use veggies that require very little planning. I’ve vowed to try a new recipe with our next share.

Cooking, Recipes

Steamed Veggies with Quinoa and Ginger Sauce

When I was in Boston recently my vegetarian friend dragged me to Life Alive, a place so crunchy I thought my husband would run out screaming. I ordered what was basically a giant plate of steamed veggies over quinoa, served with THE MOST AMAZING SAUCE EVER. Oh my god. So delicious. I will eat every vegetable if you just GIVE ME MORE OF THE SAUCE.

Ahem. So since I live nowhere near Boston (also I think Life Alive is maybe in Cambridge?) I was incredibly glad to find this recipe for a tastealike sauce. Armed with a big batch of the sauce (I made 4x the recipe and stored it for later), a steamer basket, and a rice cooker I now have a super healthy lunch option.

The best thing about this recipe is that it makes a really good take-to-work option. Just make the quinoa & sauce beforehand and keep them in the fridge. Then grab a steam-in-bag of your favorite mixed veggies from the freezer case. Put some of the sauce in one of those tiny 1oz tupperwares and you’ve got yourself a microwave meal fit for a king.


I used this to put a dent in my CSA veggies, and it was both delicious and filling. You can use whatever veggies you have on hand in place of what I used. I like to throw in a handful of raw mixed greens at the end for crunch.

Steamed Veggies with Quinoa and Ginger Sauce

For the ginger sauce:

  • 1 thumb sized peice of peeled ginger, cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves minced garlic. Confession: I use the jarred stuff.
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (half a lemon’s worth)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water

For the rest of it:

  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 5 green onions, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 turnips, cut into quarters
  • 2-3 leaves mustard greens, chopped
  • a handful of salad greens

Ginger Sauce

As written this makes 3-4 servings. I recommend making a big batch of this ahead of time and storing it in the fridge. It should be fine for at least a week. You may need to add a little water and shake it up when it’s time to use it.

Blend ginger and garlic in a small food processor. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, tahihi, olive oil, and water. Store in an airtight container or bottle.

Quinoa and Veggies

I also recommend making the quiona ahead of time. I like to make a cup (uncooked) at a time which is enough for four lunches and store it in the fridge. I nuke the quinoa while the veggies are steaming.

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions, or in a rice cooker at a 1:1 quinoa to water ratio.

In a pot with a steamer basket, boil water. Add carrots and radishes to steamer basket. Let steam for 5 minutes, then add onions and mustard greens. Steam 4 more minutes or until carrots are nice and soft.

Mix together steamed veggies, quinoa, and fresh salad greens in a bowl. Add 2-3 spoonfuls of ginger sauce (a little goes a long way!) and mix thoroughly.

Cooking, Recipes

CSA WTF: Rice turkey veggie thing

It’s time for round 2 of CSA WTF! Here’s the first recipe. This week’s CSA brought us:

  • collared greens
  • mustard greens
  • bok choy
  • radishes
  • salad mix
  • a head of lettuce
  • fresh oregano
  • salvia flowers

I’m not really sure what to call this dish. It’s based off the filling from a stuffed peppers recipe I like, but only very  loosely. Basically you make some rice, brown some meat, cook some veggies in oil / seasoning, then mix it all together with a soft cheese. It’s a good balance of healthy and tasty. You can add in any other vegetables you’d like to use up, and it still comes out delicious.

2014-06-03 19.23.31

I made it up as I went along, so measurements are approximate. Items in italics came from my CSA this week.

  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 lb lean ground turkey
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 C green onions
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 lime (optional)
  • 1 bunch collared greens, chopped with stems removed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 oz goat or feta cheese

Cook rice according to package directions, or in a rice cooker.

In a small pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and brown the turkey (about 8 minutes).

While turkey is cooking, in a second pan heat remaining 2 tbsp oil. Add green onions, basil, and Italian seasoning. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add collard greens and any other vegetables you fancy. Squeeze lime juice over greens (or don’t). Add salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until greens are soft. Add turkey to veggies and mix together.

Remove the turkey mixture from heat and mix in cheese. Add rice and serve immediately.

This made enough for two people, plus a little leftover for lunch. We are very hungry people, so it could probably serve 4 normal people.

As a bonus I made a little arrangement of flowers with the salvia and a zinnia from my garden. Also pictured is a tiny succulent we got as a wedding favor.

2014-06-03 19.47.35



Cooking, Recipes

CSA WTF: Saag!

This post is the first in what may or may not become a series about what I do with my CSA veggies each week.

CSA season is upon us! With it comes a variety of vegetables (mostly kale) that I must figure out what to do with before they go bad. On our inaugural pickup the following vegetables were bestowed upon me:

  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 bunch green onions (aka scallions)
  • 1 head bok choy
  • ~3 oz  misc salad greens

Oh hey it’s salad week! Too bad I never remember to make salad ever. Instead I decided to head the vegetables off at the pass and make something resembling saag. The general recipe I use for saag is thusly:

  • half pound of bitter greens (kale, mustard greens, etc)
  • half pound of mild greens (spinach, bok choy, lettucs)
  • half a stick of butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 green chili pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ground tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a big skillet or wok, melt butter. Add cumin, chili pepper, garlic, and tumeric. Cook for 2 minutes. Add greens a handful at a time, stirring and allowing the greens to wilt a bit between each handful. Add coriander and salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

2014-05-28 19.06.38

The first time I made this I mixed in some hard boiled egg at the end for protein. The second time I browned some chicken and threw that in there. Both were delicious.

Having made this recipe twice I’m now down to just the green onions left from this week’s CSA share. Tomorrow they will join the green peppers languishing in the crisper to become stuffed peppers.


What I’m Eating Now

It’s been more than two months since I hard reset my eating habits and started teaching myself to cook. Some friends have started asking me about my diet, and while I am not a nutritionist and this is not meant to be a plan for you to follow. I’m happy to share what’s working for me.

I started writing down everything I ate

Some people can’t stand this part, and I don’t blame them, but for me it was the only way to figure out what I needed to change. In the process of simply recording what I was eating I found I was less likely to eat junk food, because I didn’t want to have to log it. I focus mostly on staying withing my my macronutrient balance (carbs vs fat vs protein vs sugar) than counting calories.

I logged pretty religiously for about a month. Yes, it was tedious. I entered in recipes to calculate the nutritional information, pulled it up from restaurant websites when I ate out, and estimated when I had to. Now that I’ve developed better habits I don’t log as much, but I still track my eating 3-4 days per week.

What I’m not eating (and drinking)

In a lot of ways, this is more important than the stuff I am eating.

I cut way down on sugar, both added sugar and the stuff that occurs in fruits and veggies. After the first phase of “cut out junk food” I started tracking my sugar intake and even then I was still getting more than 100 grams of sugar each day. I don’t really want to think about how much I was getting before. Now I try to stay under 50g.

I eat out a lot less. Before I started this process, I was eating out or getting takeout 5+ times per week. Now I cook fresh meals for dinner and eat leftovers for lunch. I try to limit my meals out to one dinner and one lunch per week.

I don’t drink my calories. One can of coke has 33g of sugar (out of my daily 50). Not worth it. This goes double for most of the drinks at Starbucks. I’m trying to wean myself off of Diet Coke, because I don’t think the artificial sweeteners are doing me any favors either, but that one is going to be a longer battle.

I curbed my drinking. Aside from the large amounts of calories and sugar in many alcoholic drinks, there is some evidence that alcohol inhibits muscle growth. I now limit myself to 1-2 drinks per week, and drink mostly hard liquor on the rocks (which doesn’t come swimming in sugar and I tend to drink it more slowly than beer).

Super delicious indian style curry
Super delicious indian style curry

So what does that leave?

For breakfast, which I eat after my workout, I try to get in a good amount of protein and fiber. I keep a bowl full of hard boiled eggs in the fridge, and might pair that with half a cup of high fiber cereal for a quick breakfast. I also cook quinoa and keep it in the fridge, it can be mixed with fruit if I want something sweet, and is also delicious with a soft boiled egg. If we have egg whites handy I might make a big batch of egg white muffins and grab a few of those.

Lunch is almost exclusively leftovers from another night’s dinner, although occasionally I’ll make myself a salad if I happen to have spinach on hand. Every few weeks I’ll make a big batch of kale minestrone or sad vegetable soup and freeze it in individual portions for a lunch I can grab on the way out the door.

For dinner, I cook from scratch 3 days a week, eat leftovers two more days, and then on weekends we usually eat out on Saturday and have pizza at grandmom’s on Sunday. I plan my meals on the weekend and try to have a good balance of lean meats and vegetarian dishes. I look at the recipe nutrition information and look for meals that are well balanced rather than overloaded with any one macronutrient (e.g. fat, sugar, carbs). Some of my standby recipes include:

I try to keep at least 2 meals worth of ready-to-bake food in the freezer at all times. I follow the guidelines in the book Don’t Panic, Dinner’s In the Freezer, although I usually modify the recipes as they tend to be very heavy as written. These meals are prepared and then frozen (uncooked or partially cooked) and just need to be popped in the oven for a brain dead meal. This has rescued me from a night of “I’m tired, let’s just order in” on many occasions.

The turkey chili recipe is great because aside from the ground turkey, which can be frozen, all the ingredients are canned /  nonperishable. I keep one recipe’s worth on hand for weeks when I don’t get to the grocery store. In general, my diet strategy involves a lot of planning ahead when I have time so that I don’t make unhealthy choices when I don’t.


I avoid snacking between meals unless I’m absolutely starving. Most of the time when I want a snack I’m really just bored, and I’ll make myself some tea if I just need an excuse to get up and move around. I know I’m really hungry when I feel my energy levels plummet, or when even a handful of raw cabbage sounds delicious. Favorite snacks include the low sugar flavors of KIND bars, greek yogurt (none of the high sugar fruit flavors though), raw veggies, or a hard boiled egg. Mostly though I try to eat enough at meals that I don’t feel the need to snack.

Junk Food and Dining Out

There is, and always will be, a special place in my heart for sugary carbs like cupcakes, brownies, ice cream, and candy bars. I have by no means completely eliminated these from my diet, but I do pay a lot more attention to how much I’m eating and when. On days when I know I’ll be indulging in some cake (say, every Sunday at grandmom’s because it is always someone’s birthday) I am careful to avoid junk food and sugar at other meals.

At restaurants I steer towards lighter fare, but don’t go too nuts with restrictions. Limiting the frequency of meals out goes a long way here. If I’m being good I’ll skip the appetizer, order a salad, and try to eat a reasonable amount of food regardless of the restaurant portion size. But sometimes it is just worth it to eat a burrito the size of my head, and that’s why I eat carefully the rest of the week.

Eating healthy is great but this burrito makes life worth living.
Eating healthy is great but this burrito makes life worth living.

When I plan in advance I don’t find it hard to stick within my daily allotment of calories, fat, and sugar while enjoying a slice of cake or a burrito the size of my head.

Room for Improvement

I’m still working to develop good habits, and probably always will be. I need to work to incorporate more fresh veggies, and learn to navigate appetizers and cocktail parties a little better. I will destroy a cheese plate if given half the chance. While I’m good about not drinking at home or when we go out, I am practically incapable of turning down a craft beer or nice glass of wine when offered. By eating healthy at home I can enjoy this stuff without completely blowing my plan, but I would like to feel a little more in control of these situations going forward.